Ascension: Cucurrucucu Paloma

What do we know of heaven? Jesus. Where is heaven? Jesus. What is heaven like? Jesus. The questions and answers may seem blithe, but they come to the core of the bittersweet mystery we call the Ascension.

"As they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight" (Acts 1:9). The Ascension of Christ is a rueful parting. The Bride sees the Son of Man ascend. Jesus is no longer present to the Church as he was in the days immediately following his resurrection, and we, who come after the apostolic band, can’t help but to feel an evitable, if often unacknowledged, sadness, never having seen the face of one we love. Yet the Ascension is also a glimpse of what is to come. Jesus, body and soul, in his humanity and in his divinity, becomes our destiny, and heaven itself stands revealed, more as person than as place.


Nothing like a bittersweet ballad to bring home the point. Cucurrucucu Palomais a Mexican serenade about a love that cannot find rest, save in the arms of the beloved. There is no heaven without her. True, this serenade ends in sorrow, and that is not the fate of our love. Yet the longing is the same (The link is to Pedro Almodóvar’s Hable Con Ella; the singer is Caetano Veloso).

Dicen que por las noches
no más se le iba en puro llorar;
dicen que no comía,
no más se le iba en puro tomar.Juran que el mismo cielo
se estremecía al oír su llanto,
cómo sufrió por ella,
que hasta en su muerte la fue llamando:
Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay cantaba,
ay, ay, ay, ay, ay gemía,
Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay cantaba,
de pasión mortal moría.
Que una paloma triste
muy de mañana le va a cantar
a la casita sola
con sus puertitas de par en par;
juran que esa paloma
no es otra cosa más que su alma,
que todavía espera
A que regrese la desdichada.
Cucurrucucú paloma, cucurrucucú no llores.
Las piedras jamás, paloma,
¿qué van a saber de amores?

And here is the English

They say that at night
he did nothing but cry,
they say he didn’t eat
he did nothing but drink.
They swear that the very sky

trembled on hearing his weeping,
how he suffered for her,
that even in his death, he went calling her

Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, he sang,
ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, he groaned.
Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, he sang,
of a mortal passion he died.

That, very early in the morning
a sad dove goes to sing

at the empty small house
with its little doors open wide;
they swear that dove
is nothing other than his soul,
that he is still waiting
for the lamented to return.

Cucurrucucu Dove, don’t cry,

the stones never, ever do, Dove,
what can they know of love?

Rather than picture the Ascension as a galactic journey, think of it as that bittersweet day when Christ broke from our arms to prepare a place for us. "And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way" (Eph 1:22-23).

Remember, we first saw heaven in the eyes of Jesus, and to live in heaven, more than anything else, is to live with Christ and those whom we have loved in Him. There was no heaven before Christ. There can be no heaven without him.

Acts 1: 1-11 Ephesians 1: 17-23 Luke 24: 46-53

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

The Holy Spirit might be the forgotten person of the Holy Trinity.
James Martin, S.J.May 21, 2018
Pope Francis walks past cardinals as he leaves a consistory in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican June 28, 2017. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis is trying to ensure that those who elect his successor are humble men committed to “a church of the poor and for the poor.”
Gerard O’ConnellMay 21, 2018
James Martin, S.J. discusses this groundbreaking exhibition with Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute and C. Griffith Mann, Michel David-Weill Curator in Charge of the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 
America StaffMay 21, 2018
Archbishop Matteo Zuppi (Photo/Community of Sant'Egidio website)
Archbishop Matteo Zuppi of Bologna calls Father James Martin’s book ‘Building a Bridge’ ‘useful for encouraging dialogue, as well as reciprocal knowledge and understanding.’
Matteo ZuppiMay 21, 2018